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Lawsuit claiming Hebrew National foods aren’t 100% kosher dismissed

by Chavie Lieber, JTA

February 1, 2013 | 12:06 pm

A lawsuit alleging that Hebrew National foods are not strictly kosher has been dismissed.

A U.S. District Court judge in Minnesota ruled Wednesday that because kosher is a religious standard, it is a subject for rabbinic debate -- not a federal court ruling.

“The definition of the word 'kosher' is intrinsically religious in nature, and this court may not entertain a lawsuit that will require it to evaluate the veracity of Defendant’s representations that its Hebrew National products meet any such religious standard,” Judge Donovan Frank wrote. “Because all of Plaintiffs’ claims derive from Defendant’s alleged misrepresentation that its Hebrew National products are '100% kosher,' all counts of the Amended Complaint are barred by the First Amendment. “

The suit against ConAgra, the massive packaged food conglomerate that owns the Hebrew National brand, was originally filed in May by eleven customers who accused the company of consumer fraud for claiming products sold under the label were kosher.

Hebrew National carries the symbol of the Triangle K kosher certifier, an agency that is considered insufficiently reliable in certain Orthodox circles. The complaint alleged that Triangle K and AER, which does the slaughtering, did not abide by “objective” standards of kosher slaughter. In particular, they claim the company did inspect, clean, or segregate the meat in a manner “required to be considered kosher.”

“It is Triangle K and its Orthodox rabbis who make such determinations," said Frank. "Naturally, therefore, this court cannot determine whether defendant's Hebrew National products are in fact kosher without delving into questions of religious doctrine."

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